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Scenes from a foiled Welcome Back Burks game

Pacers 125, Knicks 111: 39 points by Jalen Brunson and 22 from New (again) Knick Alec Burks can’t overcome poor efforts on defense, offense, and rebounding.

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Coming into Saturday, the New York Knicks (33-20) sat fourth in the Eastern Conference, and tonight’s opponent, the Indiana Pacers (20-24) lurked close behind in sixth. The regular season series between the two clubs was tied 1-1, and New York had beaten Indy by four on February 1. A win tonight could have Playoff implications, but would not come easy with the Knicks shorthanded yet again.

With Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, Isaiah Hartenstein, Jericho Sims, and Mitchell Robinson all out, tonight’s starting lineup consisted of Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, Precious Achiuwa, and Taj Gibson. Yep, Taj. Indeed, riding Myles Turner (23 points tonight), the Pacers exploited their frontcourt advantage for a narrow halftime lead.

Indy extended their lead through the third quarter and in the fourth popped the lid off the game with contributions from Tyrese Haliburton, Pascal Siakam, and that pest TJ McConnell. Despite a late-game surge from Alec Burks—who scored 22 in his first game back in orange and blue—the Knicks couldn’t get closer than 12 down the stretch. New York received robust efforts from Jalen Brunson (39 points, 14-of-25 FG), Precious Achiuwa (15 points, six boards, five stocks, 43 minutes), and Donte DiVincenzo (14 points, 39 minutes), but converted only ten of 32 three-point attempts in the loss, 125-111. When does that All-Star break start?

First Quarter

Yet again, the Knicks started slow, missing six of their first seven shots. Meanwhile, Myles Turner led the Hoosiers’ initial assault by attacking a perceived weakness at the center position. Not a bad strategy. The Pacers shot 70% in the first quarter, making 12-of-17, but hitting only two three-pointers (including one by Turner) as they focused on working close-range. By halftime, Turner had racked up 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting.

With 4:12 remaining in the first period, Madison Square Garden cheered Bojan Bogdanović in his first appearance as a Knick. His first two points, both free throws, gave New York a late first-quarter lead, 27-26. He scored 11 first-half points in 16 minutes. I could get used to this:

Alec Burks replaced Jalen Brunson at the one-minute mark of Q1. He previously played 130 games as a Knickerbocker from 2020-22, and we’re all excited to have his scoring skills on the second squad. At 8:57 in the second frame, he swished his first points, a triple, of his second stint in NYC.

Here’s Big Money doing his thang:

The teams swapped baskets through the second quarter. Through 24 minutes played, Indiana had the biggest lead, five points.

Let it be known, that the Knicks have legitimate long-range firepower . . . just not tonight. At the three-minute mark, I laughed aloud as Brunson passed the ball to Bogdanović behind the arc who swung the rock to DiVincenzo who swung it to Josh Hart. I wouldn’t complain about any one of those guys pulling the trigger from deep, and two of them are backups on a healthy roster. OG Anunoby, Julius Randle, and Burks can all swish, too. Depth!

Despite being hampered by a sprained ankle that made him a game-time decision, and bearing a shiner under his left eye, Brunson scored 17 first-half points to lead all scorers on 6-of-11 shooting. Not to be outdone, Achiuwa shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the field for 13 points, and DiVincenzo made five of his nine field goal attempts, including two threes, for 12 points.

Halftime score, Pacers 61, Knicks 58, mostly because New York had made only six of their 18 three-point attempts. Here’s our first-half shot chart:

Second Quarter

When the Knicks beat the Hoosiers on February 1, they limited the league’s most potent offense to 47 points.

Out of intermission, Indiana went on an 11-6 run, thanks to Tyrese Haliburton dishing to Pascal Siakam on back-to-back threes. Siakam would finish the night with 19 points, and Haliburton with 12 assists (and 22 points).

Brunson led a rally for New York, demonstrating all his usual non-mortal basketball behavior. Bad ankle, you say?

Jalen needed a breather, and Miles McBride came on with about a minute on the clock. He promptly scored four points in 30 seconds. That’s how to do it, Deuce! Unfortunately, although opportunities to reduce the differential were presented, the Knicks didn’t capitalize on enough of them. They entered the final quarter behind, 91-82.

To start the fourth, Obi Toppin redeemed an earlier blown dunk with a triple, Andrew Nembhard added another, and that gnat TJ McConnell couldn’t miss. 17-point Indiana lead. The Knicks missed back-to-back layups and lost the rebounds. They. Couldn’t. Get. Stops.

In a bit of late-game heroics, Alec Burks drained three straight treys and scored 15 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. When he added two free throws, New York was still behind by 12 with two minutes left. They would come no closer. New York grabbed five offensive rebounds and allowed 35 defensive boards to Indiana. Hard to do that, shoot 31%, miss 44 shots, and win the game. And so they didn’t.

Up Next

The Houston Rockets come to town on Monday. Sleep well, Knickerbockers.

Box Score

Oh, yeah, that Obi dunk. Here ya go: